KURWU:Life and times of Kiyota

It was the third moon of the year. The village of Kurwu had gone through a successful harvest season. The village was in euphoria, and the trees had blossomed, heavy with fruits of every kind. The granaries were pregnant with harvest and the cow’s udders sagging with milk.  It was one of the successful seasons and the whole village converged together to pay reverence to Tebo, the god of rain and venerate the spirits of their ancestors. The village elder poured libation and made a burnt offering to appease the gods. It was in this bountiful season that Kiyota was born- and named according to the season and his name literally translated to bounty.

Kiyota’s childhood was full of spontaneity and curiosity. He was always in and out of the maize plantations, jumping through hedges, and uprooting most tubers just to see what was beneath the soil. He was always coming up with new ideas of games to play with his fellow children when their parents were in the fields with hunched backs, clammy sweats and black fingernails- labouring to provide food for their families. His curiosity coupled up with his idea generation made him listen in to the older men who sat in circles riddling outside their huts on cool evenings. He was passionately drawn in and wanted to quench his thirst for riddling. He was however not allowed to join in until he had gone through initiation. Kiyota grew into a healthy young man. He was short and plump, and walked as though he was bouncing. He had a pitch-black afro that sat like heaps of mowed grass. He seemingly had no neck and his body looked like it was mounted to a mountain of flesh. His smile was the widest and most contagious and he easily made friends with anyone. He always had bracelets on his hands that he made during one of his creative escapades.

Upon initiation, Kiyota joined the junior social group. They were taught the word structure and the riddling process. Knowledge of riddles helped the child to establish his identity as an individual and as a member of a junior social group, when he distinguishes himself during a riddle‐contest. Knowledge of the riddle and their word‐formulae helped the young men and adults to establish their identity as members of various senior social groups, and of Kurwu society. Social status in the tribe was prided and held in high esteem, which made the riddles even more important. Knowledge of the Kurwu riddles was of educational value only with reference to their function in Kurwu social life. In the middle social group, the elders taught the young adults how to form the basis of a riddle. They were meant to come up with riddles that inculcated moral values in the community or cautioned against certain social taboos. The participants would then gather around every evening and riddle each other, and whenever they could not get the answer, the riddler asked for a prize and then gave the answer. Kiyota perfected the skill of riddling and almost always got a prize. He was always creative and fostered the cultural values of the tribe in his riddles. Transition from the middle group to the senior group would only happen during a social ceremony where all the participants of the middle group riddled each other and the riddler whose riddle goes unsolved gives his members one moon to come up with the answer, beyond which he is given a prize and named the village riddler, until dethroned.

The middle group that consisted of Kiyota and his mates had spent forty moons trying to grasp the concept and process of riddling. The group had grown so much and were quite creative with their ideas. They challenged each other mentally and fought many word battles. Upon completion, the village elders on the King’s command held the occasional graduation ceremony. All the villagers assembled, and the ceremony was officiated with the Kurwu pouring of libation ritual and burnt offering. They began with general riddling, followed by feasting. The ceremonies could not start until everyone was well fed, and the older men sipping on their local brews in a corner away from the children. The battle of wits then began afterwards. The members went in one by one, each riddling their mates, and getting an answer. Kiyota’s turn came and he stated his riddle. The process went on and no one could get his answer. The ceremony was adjourned for one moon to allow brainstorming for the members of the social group.

One moon later, the villagers were summoned, and the members given an opportunity to give their best guess. They went on for a couple of hours and Kiyota had not accepted any of their guesses. He was then asked to name a prize, for him to give the answer. He asked for a piece of rope, which he was given and gave his answer. With consent from the villagers and the council of elders, Kiyota was then declared the wordsmith of the village, and he held on to it for the longest time as far as history was concerned.

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